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Jan 7, 2020

AWBC kicks off 2020

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) has concluded the first quarter of our tenth year of operation. We are providing more women with technical assistance toward starting their own small business in the state of Arkansas. We are proud to report that the AWBC logged more than 600 hours in counseling and training in Quarter 1, with 136 clients served. 

October was a busy month for the AWBC. In early October the AWBC was happy to participate in a panel in Little Rock’s Woman 2 Woman (W2W) tour. The W2W Conversations Tour is the first of its kind: a candid, unfiltered, organic conversation with women across the country on America’s most pressing issues. The tour allows women to speak openly and honestly about their perspectives on issues that impact their work and family lives. It offers women an opportunity to engage with thought leaders who bring unique expertise to this interactive setting. 

W2W conducts survey research during each tour, capturing the attitudes and perspectives of women in real time. W2W uses qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data and track trend lines throughout the country. It is this innovative approach to collecting data that really sets the W2W Tour Conversations apart from other survey research platforms. On the W2W panel, AWBC Director Chauncey Pettis shared her personal road to entrepreneurship and the women’s empowerment that can be channeled from entrepreneurship.  

On October 14, the AWBC followed up with students who participated this summer in our Youth Entrepreneurship Week with the support of El Dorado's Wal-Mart. We trained over 50 high school students on the importance of entrepreneurship and how to start a small business in the state of Arkansas even at a young age. Thanks to Wal-Mart for seeing the value in investing in the next generation with us!

The AWBC was proud to be selected to present our innovative approach to entrepreneurship at SOCAP in late October. SOCAP (Social Capital Markets) is a world-renowned conference series dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good. Held in San Francisco, SOCAP is the leading gathering for impact investors and social entrepreneurs. Along with the Delta I-Find and Southern Bancorp, the Arkansas Women’s Business Center presented Using Innovative Training to Empower Women and People of Color to Be Entrepreneurial Leaders

On October 23, the AWBC had the honor and privilege to host the Fourth Annual Spirit of South Arkansas Small Business Awards with the Union County Chamber of Commerce and South Arkansas Community College. We are proud of the six AWBC clients whose small businesses were nominated and voted upon by our South Arkansas community.

In honor of National Veterans Small Business Week, the AWBC joined forces with our fellow Small Business Administration resource partners to provide small business technical assistance to individuals in the military with our third Boots to Business program. Boots to Business is a two-day training session for military personnel who are transitioning out of active duty and looking to consider small business ownership as a career path. The AWBC offered training on business necessities such as proof of concept and the process of customer discovery interviews.  

November brought our largest event of the year, our proof-of-concept market. The Ninth Annual Mistletoe Market is a two-day expo consisting of over 60 small businesses from three states including Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The AWBC had over 1,000 people in attendance whom we encouraged to give feedback to entrepreneurs on their product offerings. The AWBC offers an opportunity for small businesses to set up booths and test their product offerings. We believe it’s extremely important to not only train entrepreneurs, but also provide opportunities for proof-of-concept experimentation. Mistletoe Market gives our clients and other entrepreneurs a chance to sell their products, gain additional clients and attend condensed training sessions for overall small business growth.   

Returning to our passion of fostering entrepreneurship dreams in today’s youth, the AWBC also joined forces with the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce ALPS Program. The AWBC staff hosted a four-hour training on how to create a lean canvas business template. Almost 30 youth completed their canvases and four teams created pitch decks and presented to our panel of judges. 

Jan 6, 2020

A Change Agent in Tanzania

Hilda was born the first of a family of four children in rural Tanzania. In secondary school, Hilda found herself developing an interest in agriculture. She enjoyed studying agriculture since it was not only her passion, but she saw that by improving her skills she could improve the prospects for her family and help other farmers. 

This interest in agriculture continued into her adult life. After receiving a Christopher Dowswell scholarship, Hilda was able to attend an agricultural extension program and eventually find work as an agricultural extension officer. 

"The scholarship meant a lot to me," Hilda said. "It helped with tuition fees and other academic support and allowed me not to worry about finances, helping improve my academic performance.”

The Christopher Dowswell Scholarship Fund, launched by Winrock with initial financial support from Mr. Dowswell’s family after his death in 2009, helps increase the number of women in extension services. It financially supports women pursuing degrees in agricultural extension in Africa.

Hilda's goal working in agricultural extension has always been to become a reliable change agent, leading farmers by example through the knowledge and skills agricultural extension has provided her. The Dowswell Scholarship itself has served as a beneficial example, as well.

"For those who are around me, and my country as a whole, [the scholarship] has played a part as a motivation for women and other young girls through being recognized and given an opportunity to study and provided with a scholarship," she said. 

Thus far in her work as an agricultural field officer, she's discovered that improved knowledge and skills can greatly improve the living standards of farmers in her country through improved production and income. 

"Production is there," Hilda said, "but what is missing is stable income, so knowledge of agricultural extension will help me guide them in a right way. [For] example, the use of value addition to attract [a] good price.” 

Oct 21, 2019

AWBC looks back on its ninth year

The Arkansas Women’s Business Center (AWBC) has closed our ninth year with a whirl of technical assistance offered to aspiring entrepreneurs. The AWBC is proud to report that this year we have assisted 106 new Arkansas woman-business owners, aided in the launch of 10 new minority woman-owned businesses, and helped clients gain access to over $150,000 in capital. Staff has expanded our focus area of women entrepreneurs to include veteran entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs, student entrepreneurs and more. 

In July the AWBC offered a welcome and training session for the Arkansas Economics REAL Conference. This conference is offered to Arkansas teachers who teach economics, entrepreneurship and career readiness to students in middle and high school. The AWBC director addressed over 150 educators on the importance of using as a teaching tool a one-page business plan called the lean canvas. The director also stressed the importance of great mentors and teachers to fostering free thinking and ambition in the next generation.

The AWBC continued to support our troops and joined the U.S. Small Business Administration in our third Boots to Business program. Boots to Business is a two-day training session for military personnel who are transitioning out of active duty and considering small business ownership as a career path. The AWBC training covered business imperatives such as proof-of-concept and the process of customer discovery interviews. 

August was a great month of outreach for the AWBC. Staff joined other entrepreneurial support organizations in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for the Arkansas Economic Development and Chamber Executives   Conference. The AEDCE Conference invited staff and other SBA resource partners to share AWBC’s success stories and the no-cost services we offer to entrepreneurs across the state. The AWBC also joined Arkansas Pulaski Technical College to welcome its new class of freshman at welcome week. The director of the AWBC shared her personal story of owning a small business in college and the freedom and pride entrepreneurship can give a young adult. 

In September, the AWBC received a nomination for a Minority Enterprise Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency. The AWBC was nominated during Minority Enterprise Development Week for its support of minority woman-owned businesses through its Momentum accelerator. Through this new program, AWBC addresses the unique barriers to entry for business creation faced by minority women. The completion of our first five-week accelerator led to the creation of ten new minority businesses in the state of Arkansas. 

Turning back to our passion of assisting the next generation, AWBC reconnected with our partners at El Dorado Upward Bound. Thanks to a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, AWBC was able to train 50 high school students in how to launch their small business concepts. AWBC held three sessions to train youth in launching a business, marketing and branding and how to price products. Maintaining our support of the El Dorado area, AWBC held an evening training to support working entrepreneurs at the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce. The training session, called “Starting a Business in the State of Arkansas,” covered best practices for launching a business with nominal startup funds, such as how to file a business entity in Arkansas and how to acquire a business license and employer identification number.  

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